Monday, September 14

How to do Family-Style Homeschooling

Are you struggling with trying to homeschool multiple children at different grade levels?  Do you question where you can find extra time in the day, or how you can be everywhere at once?

Prior to the 20th century, one-room schoolhouses were commonplace. Teachers weren't working that much harder back then, they were just working differently.  By applying some of the same principles, you can school your household of students without having to do six different sets of lesson plans each day.  This will greatly reduce your mom-teacher-everything-to-everyone stress!

Change Your Mindset

One of the first things you have to do is change your mindset.  We've grown up in an age where it's considered normal for ten year olds to spend all day sitting side by side with other ten year olds.  There is no intermingling of the grades / ages in a typical school.  Family-style school, however, does just this.  The younger ones learn from the older ones, and everyone works together.  

You don't have to wait until 11th grade to do chemistry just because that's how it is taught in the schools.  Those standards were created in the early 20th century to help standardize education and make sure that all of the 'important' topics were covered during the twelve years of education.  However, with homeschool, you can cover chemistry at any age.  Many families choose to cover it multiple times, going into a deeper learning mode each time.  

What Can - and Can't - Be Taught as a Family

When it comes to the three Rs.....Reading, wRiting, and do need to teach grades separately.  These are progressive, skills-based subjects and require the building blocks to be put in order.  You need to count before you can add.  You need to add before you can multiply.  Etc.

For all other subjects, you can use family-style learning.  This includes science, history, life skills, electives, and anything else you want to teach.  Unit studies are wonderful for these classes!  With unit studies, you read, listen, watch, and get hands-on with the subject matter.

Not Sure about This?

Maybe you're not sold on going entirely family-style?  Read-alouds are a fantastic way to get all your students accustomed to learning together.  Choose books that will appeal to your oldest child, and make sure to stop along the way for family discussions.  (This will also help answer any questions the younger children have.)

It may take some time to ease into it, but once your family gets used to learning and growing together, you will probably notice changes in how they interact with each other as well.  They learn that they are one part of a bigger whole, which is a great life lesson!

Family-Style Lessons

There are some fantastic, affordable, family-style curricula companies out there, including The Good and the Beautiful and A Gentle Feast.  Additionally, you can find many unit studies that are written family-style, including those from A Journey Through Learning, Amanda Bennett, and even right here at Homeschool On the Range!  

Whether you're looking for print-based or online-based courses, you'll find something to fit your family's needs.  (See all available courses.)  We offer seven online courses and eighteen printable courses.  These are multi-modal - meaning they incorporate video, audio, reading, and hands-on projects - and are designed for family use, with upper grades extensions.  There are full-year and semester-long choices available.  

When you look back on your homeschooling years twenty years from now, what do you want to remember?  Being stressed out about making sure that each child was performing at grade-level with the appropriate coursework?  Or the closeness that your family developed as your children mastered their educations together?

Different Challenges

If you have babies...
  • Attend to their needs first.  After spending a few minutes taking care of their physical and emotional needs, your baby will be more likely to play happily while you teach.
  • Save the most difficult subjects for nap time.  Your student will learn better if you are completely focused on the subject matter at hand while siblings are sleeping.
  • Toddlers can sit in a high chair with toys and "do school" alongside you.  As an added bonus, they'll be primed for learning once they hit school age...and you never know what they'll pick up along the way!

If you have special needs...
  • Audiobooks are great for read-alouds while you are travelling back and forth to appointments.
  • You have a golden opportunity to teach to their pace, rather than holding them to institutional standards.
  • Older special needs students can school alongside younger siblings, at the same level, without them feeling as though they're "behind."


If you're going to be schooling through videos, this will probably be a combination of DVDs and streaming services.  Having one device dedicated to school has been a lifesaver in our home, and I highly recommend it for you, too!  This Sony blu-ray with streaming player is capable of playing anything we need.  It doesn't take up a lot of space, connected easily and 'plays nice' with our tv and computer network, and pretty much gets the job done.  One of my favorite things about this player is that it not only plays the new stuff and streams well, but it also plays all the older DVDs, which isn't always the case with newer players....

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